I recall it was a friend who found my first job for me, when she alerted me to a research post she’d seen advertised in The Guardian newspaper. Three years later, I changed jobs into scientific publishing, having applied for a few posts, which had been advertised in the New Scientist. That was over 20 years ago before the days of the internet and social media, but also in the days when there was less competition for jobs. I’m sure not many people scour hard copy magazines and other publications when looking for a job nowadays, preferring instead to search their websites. Old fashioned networking is still the best way to secure a new job – with (anecdotally) less than 30% of jobs being advertised this is not surprising – but face-to-face encounters are not so necessary when the world can be accessed at the touch of a few keyboard buttons.
The job market has changed over my working lifetime and continues to evolve. Technology, economics, social and political pressures drive these changes; the pharmaceutical industry is a classic example of a sector which used to employ huge numbers of employees in all areas of its business, including research, manufacturing and production, human resources, clinical trials and communications. Not only has it been moving its core manufacturing and production into Asia in recent decades, it has also broken up its business and now outsources many of its needs to specialised smaller companies such as contract research organisations (CROs), recruitment companies and medical communications. This makes it harder to find jobs in these areas since smaller companies are less well known and don’t recruit new employees on a large scale.
So how can you make sure you can gain access to the widest range of opportunities available to you according to your career interests? Here are some suggestions:
- Investigate websites and recruitment agencies which are advertising in the career sector you are targeting. For example, specific academic job sites such as www.jobs.ac.uk, www.academics.com, http://www.intelliagence.fr and www.postdocjobs.com advertise postdoctoral and tenured academic posts, whilst lists of companies and jobs in industry can be found on dedicated sites such as www.pharmiweb.com, contract research organisations, www.kellyservices.com, www.environmentjobs.com and www.earthworks-jobs.com.
- Don’t rely on keywords and RSS feeds to find a job as these will limit your search. Similar jobs can have very different titles these days, even postdoctoral research posts, so be more creative or you could be missing out on dozens of opportunities.
- Subscribe to discussions lists. Not only do they post useful information from members, they advertise jobs too. For example, I’m signed up to a science communication list.
- Use your network. People are work, work is people – it is people who will either directly or indirectly open doors to your next job. You are surrounded by a network of people who, in turn are connected to others. All these people could help you with your transition by passing on information about possible openings, advising or mentoring you, directly employing you, recommending you, and so on. Don’t limit your network to your immediate work colleagues, but consider those you have worked with in the past, as well as friends, family and others – who knows what gems of wisdom, inside information or contacts they may have to help you on your way.
- USE SOCIAL MEDIA. You can expand your network exponentially by engaging with social media for professional purposes. Use Researchgate if you are aiming for an academic career and/or LinkedIn for company jobs. Twitter is invaluable for keeping in touch with other professionals and finding out about latest interest stories, as well as job opportunities. Twitter is also great for conferences.
- Join one or more learned societies. These charitable organisations provide benefits to researchers and students, such as reduced registration to conferences, travel grants, competitions, a newsletter, networking and mentoring opportunities, even the chance to get directly involved in their activities.
- Make the most of conferences: Unless you use these events to ensure you get some face-to-face contact with people, you are wasting an amazing opportunity. Look at the programme before you go, target people you want to speak to, try to get into the spotlight by presenting a paper, talk to exhibitors (many of whom have a PhD and moved into industry).
- Expand your horizons by finding out about opportunities available in other countries. If you are mobile and happy to move abroad make use of websites such as Euraxess which will help you to make the move. This service is available in all countries across Europe and they also advertise jobs. Other organisations and websites exist for jobs outside of Europe, for example Contact Singapore and Australia.
- Take a wider interest in your field: read around the subject through broader interest publications, social media networks and learned societies. Get involved in outreach activities with the public or schools, write a blog or set up a departmental journal club. Establish closer links with people in industry with whom you are collaborating or those nearby within the university campus or on a nearby science park.
- Write speculatively to potential employers, or those working in the industry which you want to move into, either enquiring about future job opportunities or to ask for information. Try to set up a visit or phone/Skype call. Don’t ask for a job directly, be more subtle and ask if you can have 10 minutes of their time to ask about the research group/core business, are there likely to be positions coming up in the near future. If you are changing careers ask about their own career path, for example, how they make the transition out of academia, do they have any advice for you.
The strategy you take for your next career transition will depend on you, your experience, ambitions and many other factors so there is no one solution to the best action to take. Hopefully the 10 suggestions above will give you a good starting point.